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Center for African American Studies


Eddie S. Glaude Jr.


Wallace D. Best, also Religion

Anne A. Cheng, also English

Eddie S. Glaude Jr., also Religion

Tera W. Hunter, also History

Imani Perry

Valerie A. Smith, also English

Associate Professor

Wendy L. Belcher, also Comparative Literature

Joshua B. Guild, also History

Naomi Murakawa

Chika Okeke-Agulu, also Art and Archaeology

Stacey Sinclair, also Psychology

Assistant Professor

Ruha Benjamin

Kinohi Nishikawa, also English

Keeanga Y. Taylor

Alexandra T. Vazquez, also English

Associated Faculty

Eduardo L. Cadava, English

Paul J. DiMaggio, Sociology, Woodrow Wilson School

Mitchell Duneier, Sociology

Simon E. Gikandi, English

William A. Gleason, English

Hendrik A. Hartog, History

Judith L. Weisenfeld, Religion

The Center for African American Studies was founded on the assumption that the study of African American history and culture and of the role that race has played in shaping the life and the institutions of the United States is central to an American liberal education. Given the continuing and evolving centrality of race in American political, economic, social, and cultural life, and indeed, in every region of the world, reflection on race and on the distinctive experiences of black people is indispensable for all Princeton students as global citizens. Drawing on a core of distinguished faculty in areas such as anthropology, art and archaeology, English, history, philosophy, psychology, religion, and sociology, the center promotes teaching and research of race with a focus on the experience of African Americans in the United States.

The center's curriculum reflects the complex interplay between political, economic, and cultural forces that shape our understanding of the historic achievements and struggles of African-descended people in this country and their relation to others around the world. Toward that end, the certificate is organized into three thematic subfields:

1) Global Race and Ethnicity: Using race and ethnicity as a lens, students are introduced to a critical perspective and approach to the examination of American institutions (e.g., schools, families, prisons, etc.). They are also exposed to other related questions such as the formation of racial and ethnic identities and the nature of inequality in an increasingly global context.

2) African American Culture and Life: Drawing on the insights of cultural studies, broadly understood, students encounter the rich history, literature, religion, and the arts of African Americans. Moreover, pushing the boundaries of historical accounts of African American life beyond U.S. national borders to include the diaspora in all of its diversity and plurality, this subfield also familiarizes students with many of the contributions of African-descended peoples around the world.

3) Race and Public Policy: Exploring, among other things, the historical, cultural, political, and economic causes and consequences of problems facing African American communities, students examine the various initiatives that have defined American public policies in relation to race. In addition, they are challenged to assess the implications for creating and implementing effective public policies that directly relate to communities of color in the United States.

Admission to the Program

Students may apply for formal admission at any time once they have taken and achieved a satisfactory standing in the core course, AAS 201 Introduction to the Study of African American Cultural Practices.

Program Requirements

In addition to taking AAS 201, students seeking a certificate in African American studies are required to take two courses in the African American Culture and Life subfield. These two courses must be selected from the history (AAS 366, AAS 367) and literature (AAS 353, AAS 359) survey courses, one of which must be a pre-20th-century course. Students must also take three additional courses in AAS or approved cognates in order to qualify for the certificate. Students are strongly urged to take at least two of these additional courses either in the Race and Public Policy subfield or in the Global Race and Ethnicity subfield. The center further suggests that race figure centrally in the student's senior thesis.

In addition to offering a certificate program, the Center for African American Studies provides an array of courses, programs, and internships, open to all students, that expand and deepen their understanding of race in the United States and in the world.

Certificate of Proficiency

Students who fulfill all the requirements of the program will receive a certificate in African American studies upon graduation.


AAS 201 Introduction to the Study of African American Cultural Practices   Fall SA

An interdisciplinary examination of the complex array of African American cultural practices from slavery to postmodern times. Close readings of classic texts will seek to provide a profound grasp of the dynamics of African American thought and practices. Two lectures, one preceptorial. E. Glaude

AAS 202 Introductory Research Methods in African American Studies (also SOC 202)   Not offered this year SA

The purposes of this course are to assist the student in developing the ability to critically evaluate social science research on the black experience and to do research in African studies. To accomplish these goals, the course will acquaint students with the processes of conceptualization and basic research techniques, and some of the unique issues in conducting research on the black experience. A variety of appropriate studies will be utilized. One three-hour seminar. Staff

AAS 210 Introduction to African-American Music (also MUS 253)   Spring LA

What is African-American music? Is it a set of genres, sound characteristics, or musical approaches? Is it based on who creates, or who receives the music? How has an African-American musical tradition undergone continual re-definition, and how might we understand these developments within historical context? This course will address these questions by studying African-American music from a variety of perspectives, drawing from historical and critical readings, and sound and visual media. C. Bryan

AAS 211 The American Dance Experience and Africanist Dance Practices (see DAN 211)

AAS 212 What's So Funny? Forms of African American Humor (also ENG 212)   Spring LA

This course examines resources for and strategies of African American humor from the early twentieth century to the present. We will survey a wide range of cultural expression, including folk poems, literary satire, and stand-up comedy, and we will consider the historical circumstances under which African American humor has flourished. Supplemental reading in the philosophy of comedy will allow us to reflect on the cognitive and affective pleasure that is realized in laughter. K. Nishikawa

AAS 221 Inequality: Class, Race, and Gender (see SOC 221)

AAS 223 Literature, Food, and the American Racial Diet (also ENG 232/GSS 223)   Spring LA

Food, like books, is the site of our greatest consumption of and most vulnerable encounter with "otherness." This course explores how "taste" informs the ways in which we ingest or dispel racial otherness. Through novels and cinema largely in Asian American and African American cultural production¿and in the Asian and African diaspora-- we will study how the meeting of food and word inform categories such as race, nationhood, gender, ecology, and family, and class. Topics include: "Transcendental Primitivism," "Modernist Orientalism," "Chocolate Women on the Edge", "Parenting/Consuming", "Ecology and the Humanimal," and more. A. Cheng

AAS 235 Race Is Socially Constructed: Now What? (also SOC 236)   Spring SA

The truism that "race is socially constructed" hides more than it reveals. Have Irish Americans always been white? Are people of African descent all black? Is calling Asian Americans a "model minority" a compliment? Does race impact who we date or marry? In this course, students develop a sophisticated conceptual toolkit to make sense of such contentious cases of racial vision and division as the uprising in Ferguson. We learn to connect contemporary events to historical processes, and individual experiences to institutional policies, exercising a sociological imagination with the potential to not only analyze, but transform the status quo. R. Benjamin

AAS 247 The New Jim Crow: US Crime Policy from Constitutional Formation to Ferguson (also POL 382)   Spring SA

This course explores the political development of America's racially disparate punishment regime. We trace the history of US crime policy, moving through US constitutional formation, Reconstruction and lynch law, and Jim Crow punishment in the South and urban North. We focus on punishment in post-civil rights America, and we devote special attention to policing, the death penalty, and the interconnected wars on crime, drugs, immigration, and terror. Our overarching goal is to understand the political construction of crime, colorblindness, and legitimate state violence. N. Murakawa

AAS 262 Introduction to the Evolution of Jazz Styles (see MUS 262)

AAS 301 Black to the Future: Science, Fiction, and Society (also SOC 367)   Spring SA

Designer Babies. Ancestry Tests. Organ Regeneration. Biometric Surveillance. These and more comprise our 21st century landscape. This interdisciplinary course examines the values and politics that shape science, medicine, and technology, asking who bears the risk and who reaps the benefit of innovations? Social inequality is legitimized, in part, by myths about human difference. And while course participants grapple with past and present stories that shape science and technology, we also apply a sociological imagination to the future, exploring how contemporary hopes and fears may give rise to "real utopias" that are more equitable and just. R. Benjamin

AAS 310 Music from the Hispanophone Caribbean (also ENG 324/MUS 256/LAO 310)   Fall LA

This interdisciplinary seminar utilizes the musical cultures of Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba to reflect upon the aesthetic, migratory, and social histories of the Hispanophone Caribbean. Students will listen to the sounded legacies of conquest, slavery, colonialism, and U.S. intervention and occupation. The effects of transnational migration on music's performance and reception will also be one of the key themes in the course. We will not only consider the creative traditions and receptive worlds embedded in musical recordings, but will also pay attention to music's traces in literature, film, and other ephemera. A. Vazquez

AAS 314 Model Memoirs: The Life Stories of International Fashion Models (also GSS 313)   Fall LA

Explores the life-writing of American, African, and Asian women in the fashion industry as a launching point for thinking about race, gender, and class. How do ethnicity and femininity intersect? How are authenticity and difference commodified? How do women construct identities through narrative and negotiate their relationships to their bodies, families, and nations? Includes guest lectures by fashion editors and models; discussions of contemporary television programs, global fashion, and cultural studies; and student self-narratives about their relationships with cultural standards of beauty, whether vexed or not. One three-hour seminar. I. Perry

AAS 317 Race and Public Policy (see WWS 331)

AAS 318 Black Women and Spiritual Narrative (also REL 318)   Spring LA

Analyzes narrative accounts of African American women since the 19th century. Drawing on the hypothesis that religious metaphor and symbolism have figured prominently in black women's writing--and writing about black women--across literary genres, the class explores the various ways black women have used their narratives not only to disclose the intimacies of their religious faith, but also to understand and to critique their social context. Students will discuss themes, institutions, and structures that have traditionally shaped black women's experiences, as well as theologies black women have developed in response. One three-hour seminar. W. Best

AAS 321 Black Power and Its Theology of Liberation (also REL 321)   Not offered this year HA

This course examines the various pieties of the Black Power era. We chart the explicit and implicit utopian visions of the politics of the period that, at once, criticized established black religious institutions and articulated alternative ways of imagining salvation. We also explore the attempt by black theologians to translate the prophetic black church tradition into the idiom of black power. Our aim is to keep in view the significance of the Black Power era for understanding the changing role and place of black religion in black public life. E. Glaude

AAS 323 Diversity in Black America (also AMS 321)   Fall SA

As the demographics of Blacks in America change, we are compelled to rethink the dominant stories of who African Americans are, and from whence they come. The seminar explores the deep cultural, genealogical, national origin, regional, and class-based diversity of people of African descent in the United States. One three-hour seminar. I. Perry

AAS 325 African American Autobiography (also ENG 393)   Not offered this year LA

Highlights the autobiographical tradition of African Americans from the antebellum period to the present as symbolic representations of African American material, social, and intellectual history and as narrative quests of self-development. Students will be introduced to basic methods of literary analysis and criticism, specifically focusing on cultural criticism and psychoanalytic theory on the constructed self. One three-hour seminar. Staff

AAS 326 Landmarks of French Culture and History (see FRE 330)

AAS 327 Slavery and Salvation: Crossing the Atlantic in the Early Modern World (also LAS 335/COM 376)   Spring LA

This comparative course examines notions of human difference (blackness in particular) via literature, travel writing, and other contemporary materials from Iberia, England, France, and the Americas. As we read these texts, we will consider how modern notions of race, gender, and sexuality have shaped our view of blackness in the early modern world, and, possibly, vice-versa. The ultimate aim of the course is to consider the overlaps and differences between paradigms, images, and theories of blackness generated by Iberian, English, and French contact with Africa, America, and the East. L. Brewer-García

AAS 336 Race and American Politics (see POL 336)

AAS 340 Shades of Passing (also ENG 391/AMS 340)   Not offered this year LA

This course studies the trope of passing in 20th century American literary and cinematic narratives in an effort to re-examine the crisis of identity that both produces and confounds acts of passing. We will examine how American novelists and filmmakers have portrayed and responded to this social phenomenon, not as merely a social performance but as a profound intersubjective process embedded within history, law, and culture. We will focus on narratives of passing across axes of difference, invoking questions such as: To what extent does the act of passing reinforce or unhinge seemingly natural categories of race, gender, and sexuality? A. Cheng

AAS 342 Sisters' Voices: African Women Writers (also COM 394/AFS 342)   Spring LA

In this class, we study the richness and diversity of poetry, novels, and memoirs written by African women. The course expands students' understanding of the long history of women's writing across Africa and a range of languages. It focuses on their achievements while foregrounding questions of aesthetics and style. As an antidote to misconceptions of African women as silent, students analyze African women's self-representations and how they theorize social relations within and across ethnic groups, generations, classes, and genders. The course increase students' ability to think, speak, and write critically about gender. W. Belcher

AAS 345 Race, Labor, and the Long Civil Rights Movement (also AMS 346)   Spring SA

This course explores the relationships between race and labor in the long civil rights era. Its purpose is to examine the interplay of racial and class formation, and the intersections between antiracist and labor movements through an interdisciplinary framework. The assigned texts analyze how racial differences among workers have been both produced and contested. They introduce theories and methods to analyze civil rights struggles as labor struggles, emphasizing the role of culture in movements for racial and economic justice. Along with our key texts we will also screen films and listen to musical recordings and oral testimonies. J. Camp

AAS 346 The American Jeremiad and Social Criticism in the United States (see REL 367)

AAS 350 Rats, Riots, and Revolution: Housing in the Metropolitan United States (also SOC 362)   Spring HA

This class examines the history of urban and suburban housing in the twentieth century US. We will examine the relationship between postwar suburban development as a corollary to the "underdevelopment" of American cities contributing to what scholars have described as the "urban crisis" of the 1960s. Housing choice and location were largely shaped by discriminatory practices in the real estate market, thus, the course explores the consequences of the relationship between public policy and private institutions in shaping the metropolitan area including after the passage of federal anti-housing discrimination legislation in the late 1960s. K. Taylor

AAS 351 Law, Social Policy, and African American Women (also GSS 351)   Spring SA

Journeying from enslavement and Jim Crow to the post-civil rights era, this course will learn how law and social policy have shaped, constrained, and been resisted by black women's experience and thought. Using a wide breadth of materials including legal scholarship, social science research, visual arts, and literature, we will also develop an understanding of how property, the body, and the structure and interpretation of domestic relations have been frameworks through which black female subjectivity in the United States was and is mediated. I. Perry

AAS 353 African American Literature: Origins to 1910 (also ENG 352)   Fall LA

A survey of literary materials produced within the African American experience, from the 18th century through the contemporary period, with special emphasis on genre, theme, and context. The course will investigate dominant and marginalized literary histories and the importance of gender, region, and sensibility. Two lectures, one preceptorial. C. Brown

AAS 359 African American Literature: Harlem Renaissance to Present (also ENG 366)   Spring LA

This course explores the relationship between cultural production and historical phenomena (such as the Great Migration, the Harlem Renaissance, and the Civil Rights Movement, for example) in 20th- and 21st-century African American literature. Additionally, we will consider the place of African American literature and cultural production in a diasporic context that encompasses decolonization, multiculturalism and globalization. Primary texts include novels, short fiction, drama, essays, poetry and performance culture. Staff

AAS 362 Race and the American Legal Process: Emancipation to the Voting Rights Act (also WWS 386/POL 338)   Not offered this year SA

This course examines the dynamic and often conflicted relationships between African American struggles for inclusion, and the legislative, administrative, and judicial decision-making responding to or rejecting those struggles, from Reconstruction to the passage of the Voting Rights Act. In tracing these relationships we will cover issues such as property, criminal law, suffrage, education, and immigration, with a focus on the following theoretical frameworks: equal protection, due process, civic participation and engagement, and political recognition. I. Perry

AAS 363 Topics in the Politics of Writing and Difference (see SPA 352)

AAS 364 Race, Drugs, and Drug Policy in America (see HIS 393)

AAS 365 Migration and the Literary Imagination (also REL 362/ENG 394)   Fall LA

This course will explore the various meanings of migration and mobility found in 20th-century African American literature. Through careful historical and literary analysis, we will examine the significant impact migration has had on African American writers and the ways it has framed their literary representations of modern black life. W. Best

AAS 366 African American History to 1863 (see HIS 386)

AAS 367 African American History from Reconstruction to the Present (see HIS 387)

AAS 368 Topics in African American Religion (also REL 368/POL 424)   Not offered this year EM

Assesses the value of religion and its impartations of the historical, ethical, and political in African American life. Courses will also critique African American religion from a broader contextual basis by establishing commonalities and differences across historical and cultural boundaries. Two lectures, one preceptorial. Staff

AAS 372 Postblack - Contemporary African American Art (also ART 374/AMS 372)   Fall LA

As articulated by Thelma Golden, postblack refers to the work of African American artists who emerged in the 1990s with ambitious, irreverent, and sassy work. Postblack suggests the emergence of a generation of artists removed from the long tradition of black affirmation of the Harlem Renaissance, black empowerment of the Black Arts movement, and identity politics of the 1980s and early 90s. This seminar involves critical and theoretical readings on multiculturalism, race, identity, and contemporary art, and will provide an opportunity for a deep engagement with the work of African American artists of the past decade. One three-hour seminar. C. Okeke-Agulu

AAS 373 History of African American Art (see ART 373)

AAS 380 Public Policy in the American Racial State (also AMS 382)   Fall

In the context of de facto equality but persistent racial inequality, how do we identify race's role in public policy? This course addresses this question by drawing on a range of interdisciplinary texts. We begin by exploring different theoretical perspectives of race, seeking to define "the racial state" in historical and comparative terms. We then consider how race interacts with a variety of American political institutions, including the welfare state, immigration regulation, and the criminal justice state. We give particular attention to the complexities of racial construction and race's intersection with other forms of hierarchy. N. Murakawa

AAS 384 Prejudice: Its Causes, Consequences, and Cures (also PSY 384)   Fall SA

Prejudice is one of the most contentious topics in modern American society. There is debate regarding its causes, pervasiveness, and impact. This goal of this course is to familiarize students with the psychological research relevant to these questions. We will review theoretical perspectives on prejudice to develop an understanding of its cognitive, affective, and motivational underpinnings. We will also discuss how these psychological biases relate to evaluations of, and behavior toward, members of targeted groups. In addition, research-based strategies for reducing prejudice will be discussed. S. Sinclair

AAS 389 Women Writers of the African Diaspora (see ENG 389)

AAS 392 Topics in African American Literature (also ENG 392)   Not offered this year LA

A historical overview of black literary expression from the 19th century to present day. Will emphasize a critical and analytical approach to considering the social, cultural, and political dimensions of African American literature. Two lectures, one preceptorial. D. Brooks

AAS 408 Forms of Literature (see ENG 402)

AAS 411 Art, Apartheid, and South Africa (also ART 471/AFS 411)   Spring LA

Apartheid, the political doctrine of separation of races in South Africa (1948-1990), dominated the (South) African political discourse in the second half of the 20th century. While it lasted, art and visual cultures were marshaled in the defense and contestation of its ideologies. Since the end of Apartheid, artists, filmmakers, dramatists, and scholars continue to reexamine the legacies of Apartheid, and the social, philosophical, and political conditions of non-racialized South Africa. Course readings examine issues of race, nationalism and politics, art and visual culture, and social memory in South Africa. C. Okeke-Agulu

AAS 412 Cultures of the Afro-Diaspora (also ENG 425/LAO 412)   Spring LA

This course analyzes key readings and studies on Afro-diasporic cultures across the Americas in the 20th century. From reggaes unrelenting rhythms to the dances that move carnival, the New World thrums with activity from populations that have persevered conditions of displacement to create new aesthetic forms. We will investigate expansive notions of blackness that move beyond national paradigms and the productive pressure that performance puts on ontologies of identity such as the Afro-Latino, African American, and West Indian in theory and literature. Artists include Bob Marley, Katherine Dunham, Jorge Ben, and Patato y Totico. A. Vazquez

AAS 420 Seminar in American Politics (see POL 420)

AAS 477 The Civil Rights Movement (also HIS 477)   Not offered this year HA

This interdisciplinary course examines the evolution of African American social and political mobilization from World War II through the 1970s. Through an analysis of historical scholarship, oral history, sermons, works of literature, film and music, it explores the various ways that African Americans articulated their political demands and affirmed their citizenship using the church, grassroots organizations, workers' rights, feminism, education, war, the federal bureaucracy, and the law as tools for political action. The course also considers the ways these movements have been remembered, memorialized, and appropriated in more recent times. J. Guild, I. Perry